Portman and Kutcher shine in racy comedy

by Sarah Grieco

Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher challenge the idea of friends with benefits in “No Strings Attached.”, Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher challenge the idea of friends with benefits in “No Strings Attached.”, Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Now that it’s past the date for Oscar submissions, Hollywood can start having some fun and dole out the less serious films. “No Strings Attached,” one of the first truly good romantic comedies to hit the silver screen this year, stars A-listers Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.

The plotline isn’t the typical boy-meets-girl scenario. In this case, Adam (Kutcher) and Emma (Portman) decide after years of embarrassing encounters, it’s time to elevate their relationship into something more unorthodox: friends with benefits. Adam makes the easy decision to become Emma’s boy toy after a 45-second drunken romp. It seems to be all fun and games for a while, until Adam develops feelings for Emma.

That’s when the complexities begin, and the movie seems to carry an interesting question within the subtext: Can people check their feelings at the door when having casual sex?

The few awkward moments of the movie involve the character’s parents and crass nude scenes, but those can be easily overlooked in favor of the incredible supporting cast. Mindy Kaling (“The Office”) and newcomer Greta Gerwig execute the role of funny roommates perfectly, and the surprisingly hilarious Ludacris and adorably funny Jake Johnson play Adam’s pals. Be warned, the underbelly of female relationships is on full display, which may make the men in the audience a bit queasy.

Portman seems to have a really good time with a lighter role, which is a stark contrast from her dark, twisted character in “Black Swan.” For the women in the audience, it won’t be hard to envy pretty Portman as she plays every man’s fantasy. She’s a beautiful, petite doctor who wolfs down pancakes and chugs milkshakes all while sexing it up with hunky Adam.

Kutcher, on the other hand, is slightly typecast as a partying frat boy living in Los Angeles, but he pulls it off with his boyish good looks and swagger. For most of the movie, Kutcher’s character is simply going along for the ride, which strikes an eerie resemblance to his acting career. He has yet to surprise anyone with the roles he plays and seems to be riding the tide in his latest film.

In an interesting twist, “No Strings Attached” reverses the roles of typical rom-coms. Instead of the girl pining for the guy, this movie displays a young, professional woman unwilling to commit to her hot friend with benefits. It’s nice to see a rated R film capture the complications of this type of relationship without being too crass or overgeneralized. The outcome is interesting, and worth watching simply to find out if relationships can remain platonic when sex is involved.

It’s often difficult to enjoy a movie where the main characters get together in the beginning, but “No Strings Attached” shows viewers the comical side of having a friend with benefits. There are plenty of laughs for all, but this one may be best left to the ladies for girl’s night out.

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